Keith Arthur - High time for change in the keepnet laws

How rubbish an invention are nets? They seem to be the cause of all the major problems and issues in angling, from emptying the oceans (trawl nets) to losing a match angler, potentially, a few quid and lots in between (keepnets).

The match angler in question complains that he didn’t win a competition because the fishery he chose to fish on has a ‘net-supplied’ rule, and his particular net had a hole in it, so his fish escaped.

We’re not talking bleak or gudgeon vanishing through over-large mesh, or roach maybe slipping through a gap created by an over-zealous pike munching its way in, but a number of barbel simply swimming out of a gash in the net.

I understand that Decoy barbel run to 5lb-plus - substantial fish.

One thing is for certain, he’ll check his supplied nets next time...

And on the subject of nets, my old pal Provocative Partner brings up the subject of keepnet use along the lines of anglers having the right to use them. He’s correct, of course, except where someone decides on their fisheries that they don’t want their fish retained in them.

The usual citing of match anglers keeping fish is mentioned, but that is for a maximum of five hours.

Several fisheries that run matches only allow that maximum time, so clubs that want to fish longer are usually invited to organise a mid-term weigh in, or fish elsewhere. Joe Dayticket can fish from dawn till dusk and simply keep filling keepnets until he runs out.

Apart from anglers wanting to see what they’ve caught I have yet to be given a decent reason for retaining loads of stupid fish in a net. I’ve got no objections at all about a fish being kept until it retains its equilibrium, after a long and protracted battle - indeed, it’s morally unjustifiable to put such a fish straight back without recovery time.

There is nothing to stop anglers who want to see their fish switching to the rivers, of course, although they may not have much to look at if the general ability of people that tell me they want to see their catch is anything to go by.

Until we, as anglers, get our collective act together and, as a matter of course, make sure our nets are safe to use, having been completely and thoroughly dried and exposed to air and daylight for 12 hours, there are going to be issues.

Until our representative body, which probably hasn’t been asked yet, proposes new legislation requesting keepnet minimum sizes ¬ they are ludicrously small for today’s angling - are increased to sensible proportions, and the EA changes them, there is always a risk of overfilling a net.

In my biggest keepnet, 100lb of carp can swim around - 20lb of bream in a minimum net can’t! That’s daft, and rules have to be made for the daft even if they hinder the sensible.

Then we come to the issue of fisheries. The prime reason that most net bans are brought into place, in fact the reason for most bans, is that fishing has been made just too easy, and not just day-ticket waters with ‘small’ carp.

While those fisheries compete with each other by stocking more and more fish, rather than maybe upgrading the toilets and making family picnic areas, or indeed better facilities in general, that will be the case.

Everything in coarse fishing seems to be copying the flawed trout model, where four-fish limits can be achieved in four casts on some days - if the angler really wants that.

Rules preventing fish being caught are introduced when, surely, the  better option is to stock fewer of  them in the first place and make  the challenge genuine, rather than artificial.